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Not The West Highland Way - a Cicerone guide

Cover of Not the West Highland Way
21 Sep 2010
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.7cm
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Not the West Highland Way

by Ronald Turnbull
Book published by Cicerone Press

The West Highland Way is one of the UK's finest long distance walks, but the path runs close to a busy main road and avoids the mountain tops. NOT The West Highland Way describes alternative routes over mountains, smaller hills or high passes to all but one of the Way's nine stages. With add-on day trips over Ben Lomond or Beinn Dorain.

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The West Highland Way is one of the finest of Britain’s long-distance paths. It passes through six separate mountain ranges, running from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow alongside her longest loch, to the foot of Scotland’s highest mountains. But it runs close to a busy main road and avoids the mountain tops.

NOT The West Highland Way makes the most of the surrounding area, taking in sights that the linear Way doesn't allow. It crosses Ben Lomond and Beinn Dorain, the charming Campsie Fells and the mighty Mamores, while the crossing of the Black Mount from Inveroran to Glen Coe represents the best pub-to-pub to be found in Britain. Much better to cross these mountains than to pass them on your way by.

With mountain alternatives to all but one of the West Highland Way's nine standard stages, this guidebook takes you on a higher and wilder journey. By taking the best of what the standard Way has to offer and adding in all its diversions away from the linear paths, and get to the heart of what makes the West Highland Way so great.

  • 5 one-day hill outings described from Rowardennan, Inverarnan, Crianlarich, Inveroran and Fort William
  • 8 mountain alternatives create a fantastic 14-day walk
  • includes two 2-day backpack trips and 3 extended routes off the Way to Dalwhinnie, Inverie and as far north as Cape Wrath
  • all illustrated with OS map extracts and packed with ‘backpack facts’ for first-timers long distance walkers
  • Seasons
    April to October, with May, June and September as the best months of all; a few routes have some access limitations during stag stalking from August to October; winter months are also enjoyable for tough types
  • Centres
    Loch Lomond, Taynuilt, Crianlarich, Tyndrum, Bridge of Orchy, Kinlochleven, Corrour Station, Fort William
  • Difficulty
    Moderate day walks over small hills and pathed Munros; pathless but grassy ridges and high passes; treks of two or three days on valley paths; a rough crossing of Rannoch Moor; map reading and compass/GPS skills needed on the more serious routes; some non-technical scrambling
  • Must See
    Loch Lomond from overhead; sunrise from the summit corrie of Ben Lui; woods and waterfalls of River Leven; long, lonely Loch Etive; Glen Nevis from its bleak head down to its Himalayan-style gorge

November 2015

12: Hill Crossing...

There is a finer crossing through the Mamores, longer than the original Route 12 over Sgurr an Iubhair, and more backpackish (as well as more sheltered) as it uses two passes and takes in the really beautiful bit of Glen Nevis. It starts as Route 15, then passes Coire an Lochain and runs between Binnein Mor and Binnein Beag to arrive high up in Glen Nevis. The paths are good, apart from a rough descent into Glen Nevis.
Route information: distance: 27.5km; ascent: 850m, approximate time: 8½ hours; maximum altitude: 780m (flank of Sgurr Eilde Beag)
(If you finish at Nevis Youth Hostel you save 3.5km.)

16: A Wilder Two-day...

Day 2: The footbridge across Allt Chabhar below Clashgour (NN237420) has been removed. Usually the stream can be forded: an alternative footbridge is 800 metres upstream, above Clashgour.

19 The Etive Trek

Day 3: Loch Etive Head to Kings House (new)
Much nicer than the 6km of roadwalking up Glen Etive, there's an old path on the east side of the river to a footbridge at Dalness.

October 2015

WH Way Rowardennan to Inversnaid
The 'little-used alternative path' has been radically smoothed and rebuilt (2014) so that it is now very comfortable and pleasant going, and there's no reason at all to prefer the less interesting track route above.
Route 3
Deer fences have fallen and been rebuilt. There's a new deer fence across Bealach Cruinn a' Bheinn, but it's possible to squeeze between the wires so as to get up Cruinn a' Bheinn itself. The old fence that used to pass over the summit has more or less vanished, so you'll need a compass bearing (northwest) for the best line off the summit. (Following the new fence around the west side of Cruinn a' Bheinn is possible, but has harsh tussocks and bog all the way.)



The High Road and the Low   

When to go   

Safety in the mountains   


How to use this book   

A Winter Not the West Highland Way   

Part 1 The High Road and the Low   

Milngavie to Drymen   

1     Hill Option: the Campsie Fells   

Drymen to Rowardennan


Rowardennan to Inversnaid   

2     Rowardennan Outing: Ben Lomond   

3     Hill Crossing: Ben Lomond to Inversnaid   

Inversnaid to Inverarnan   

4     Hill Crossing: Beinn a’ Choin   

5     Inverarnan Outing: Beinn Chabhair   

Inverarnan to Tyndrum   

6     Hill Crossing: Ben Lui   

7     Crianlarich Outing: An Caisteal and Beinn a’ Chroin   

Tyndrum to Inveroran   

8     Hill Crossing: the Back of Beinn Dorain   

9     Inveroran Outing: Ben Inverveigh and Meall Tairbh   

Inveroran to Kings House   

10     Hill Crossing: Black Mount   

Kings House to Kinlochleven   

11     Hill Crossing: Beinn a’ Chrulaiste and the Blackwater   

Kinlochleven to Fort William   

12     Hill Crossing: Mamores   

13     Hill Crossing: More Mamores   

14     Fort William Outing: Ben Nevis by the CMD Arête   

Part 2 Beginnerish Backpacking   

The excitement is in tents   

Midges are unpleasant   

May is the month   

Shoulder-strengthening short trips   

The off-route food-fetching formula   

Stuff, stuffsacks, and throwing it all away   

15     A mostly gentle two-day: the Back of Ben Nevis   

16     A wilder two-day: Taynuilt to Bridge of Orchy

Part 3 Away from the Way

17     Dumbarton Start

18     Wrong side of the Loch: the Arrochar Alps   

19     The Etive Trek   

20     Blackwater and the Lairig Leacach   

21     Routes of Rannoch 

Part 4 Roads to the Deep North   

22     Corrour to Dalwhinnie   

23     Fort William to Inverie   

24     Spean Bridge to Cluanie and even Cape Wrath   

Appendix 1:     Access   

Appendix 2:     Useful information   

Appendix 3:     Further reading

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